Awash in a neon rainbow and increasingly pop-leaning production, blink-182's aptly named Nine proves that looks can be deceiving. Despite the colorful album cover, this is one of blink's darkest albums to date. Depression, self-doubt, fear, and frustration lurk beneath the trio's trademark sound and, upon closer inspection of the lyrics, Nine's loudness and energy become better suited for catharsis and bloodletting than simple pop-punk rollicking and mischief. When frontman Mark Hoppus cries "I wanna feel happy days" on the deceptively titled "Happy Days," it's just one of many moments on Nine where his struggles with mental health are brought to the fore. Gone are the scatological and lowbrow humor of past blink efforts, pushing the band into more emotionally fraught territory than their usual joke-loving, breezy pop-punk wheelhouse. In addition to the obvious ("On Some Emo Shit"), Hoppus, Matt Skiba, and Travis Barker also tackle the mass shooting crisis in the U.S. ("Heaven"), alcoholism ("Hungover You"), and church abuses ("Black Rain"). Indeed, the most shocking aspect about Nine is that the boys in blink have finally matched the maturity of their musical output with their ages and life experiences. This change allows for a more satisfying experience, one that reveals itself best in the more pensive moments. Additional highlights include the driving "Darkside," the twin punk blasts of "Generational Divide" and "Ransom," and the urgent "No Heart to Speak Of," which boasts an impassioned vocal performance by Skiba. While Nine is by no means a dour emo record, it carries enough emotional heft to elevate it as one of blink-182's strongest late-era efforts, one that matures the typical blink sound with its commitment to vulnerability and honesty.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung